Wrote this, didn't have energy to edit. Posting it anyway. Maybe it'll mean something to me some day. Or someone else. That would be cool.
Life is a Radio - Tuning into the Happiness in my Life
Have you ever been driving down the highway to another state or location, with the radio blaring, and you notice that you start to lose reception to your local stations after you get about an hour away?
All of a sudden, all you can hear is static. Deafening static. You try to tune the radio to some other stations to get away from the noise.
The analogy I want to make is not just about the radio. It actually has a lot to do with my life.
Tonight, I was wandering around Whole Foods, trying to relax after a difficult day. I wasn't having much luck until about the last 15 minutes before it was time to go. Something about the exchange of pleasantries I had with the woman working at the deli, or maybe the song on the radio, or something - all of a sudden made me relax. I felt, for the first time all day, able to tune into the joy and calmness that existed in the world around me. This happened for maybe just a few minutes, and felt great.
At the same time, I was listening to the radio on my Walkman as I always do when I am in public. A song came on that I don't even really like that much, but I like parts of it. It made me happy. A feeling of joy and connection came over me. The radio station wasn't coming in too clearly, so I adjusted the position of the Walkman in my hands to try to get it better. With one hand, I held the actual Walkman, and with the other, I fiddled with the position of the headphone wire, because that is what acts as the antenna. It matters the exact position that you hold the headphone wire in relation to the Walkman.
Just moving it a half inch, and holding it tightly can greatly improve reception and make a station that was full of static before all of a sudden come in clear.
I had to laugh when I observed myself tonight. Standing there in the blissfully quiet, peaceful, empty Whole Foods at five minutes before 10, holding the Walkman in what is such a classic position for me when I am trying to get reception to a station. Standing in the middle of an aisle, in a position that had to look a little weird to onlookers, but was in some ways as natural to me as breathing. I flashed back to an image of myself from when I was a freshman in high school. I was in the high school cafetaria, holding my Walkman in exactly the same position, trying to get WABK on the radio. WABK is an oldies station out of Augusta, about an hour from here, and I was very excited whenever I could get it. Radio reception being as temperamental as it is, I could only get it on occasion if I held the Walkman just so in the right way.
I didn't know a lot about the world when I was a freshman in high school. I still don't, in many ways, but I know more than I did then. I did know that the world often felt painful to me, and that I was lonely and isolated. I didn't know much about my peers, and how to talk to them, or what they thought of me. I didn't know how to talk to them. But I did know that if I held my Walkman just so, I could get WABK on the radio and I knew that that made me happy. So I could often be found sitting in the middle of a table full of chatting students, sitting away from them holding my hands in an odd gesture, with a Walkman held up to the air and a look of joy on my face as I listened to whatever song was playing on WABK or WYNZ, which was the Portland oldies station.
Over the years, in some ways, a lot changed, and in some ways not much changed. I figured out how to be more social in many arenas, but I also picked up a lot of shame and self-hatred for myself once I realized just how different I was. I engaged in a kind of back and forth dance, wanting so much to be myself and show myself, but knowing that it wasn't socially acceptable, so putting one foot in and taking it out again. I am coming to realize that I have exhausted an awful lot of energy in this dance, this dance that involves such a lack of self acceptance. Where has it gotten me? I've moved across the country and had a lot of different life experiences since I was that girl who first got into oldies radio as a freshman in high school, but still, after all I 've done, and after all the effort I've made to change myself, I am still the girl that can be found with her Walkman in some random space, pointing it towards the sky and trying to get whatever far-away station she can on her radio. And maybe, I am starting to think, that is not such a bad thing. I know my true north, I know what I can count on. I know what I can always come back to.
But not only is this interesting as a physical metaphor, it has broader applications to my life as well.
As a person, I am always trying to "tune" myself so that I can be calm, comfortable and "tuned into" the feelings of connection, happiness and calmness that I so intensely seek.
I have a lot of energy, but I find it hard to focus my energy on the pursuits I would like to focus on. I get overcome by feelings of overwhelm, physical and emotional discomfort and anxiety the vast majority of the time. So I am constantly trying new ways to "fiddle" with myself and "tune" myself, so that I can pick up the positive energy that I know is around me. I take my body, which is often brimming with agitation and all kinds of negative energy, and I try to tune it. I try to engage in conversations with people, or maybe dance if I have the energy, or spin around to produce a calming feeling. I listen to music, or talk, or write, or do all these things that are in essence trying to center myself, or tune myself. When I am lucky, I am able to get to a place of calm and all of a sudden "feel" the feelings of connection with others, or connection with myself, or just a feeling of quiet competence that helps me go on. It usually takes a lot of effort, but it is worth it. I find it interesting that just as I try to tune the stations on my Walkman in, at the same time I am trying to tune myself in.
And just like I often have to wait a while to hear a truly good song on the radio, I often have to wait a while to feel truly okay in my daily life. When I listen to the radio, there are a lot of of not so-good songs, but then there are also a lot of wonderful songs that are unexpected and make me so happy to hear - usually when I least expect them. Somehow, I have developed a patience for waiting for good songs to come on that does not translate anywhere else in my life. I am trying to learn that by the same token, if I am patient with my life and wait, good things will happen that will be truly worth waiting for just like the good songs on the radio are. Just like when I was a kid calling DJs on the radio and often letting the phone ring twenty or thirty times before someone answered, I have to learn that I might have to put an awful lot of effort in with sometimes no results before I do get an answer, or a benefit from it. I don't know how I had so much patience as a kid, in this area of my life, when I had no patience in any other area. I'd call and wait, and not even mind waiting. When I did
get to talk to a DJ, usually on the oldies station in the afternoon, he'd make me feel so special and so wonderful I'd be absolutely flush with happiness and enthusiasm and being seen. It was worth waiting for.
Radio seems to have many analogies that are useful in my life. I hope it is always a part of my life.
I really appreciate how something that gave me joy as a kid of 13 still continues to make me happy at age 30.
If you like this, please be sure to visit my other website, Accepting Asperger's. A lot of my older writing is stored here, including an editorial I once wrote for the Baltimore Sun. Click here to see it: Accepting Asperger's.
What's it really like to be a 20 something with Asperger's? On this blog, I hope to explore that question. But this blog is not just limited to an audience of people in their 20s - this is for anyone who ever wanted to know anything about autism. I plan to delve into the nature and experience of autism, and examine it from as many angles as possible. I would like to start a conversation between people with Asperger's or autism, parents of kids with autism spectrum disorders, and anyone who just wants to know more. Let's explore what autism means, together.
My goal is to start a discussion on and build a community of people affected by autism - parents and adults with ASD - so feel free to leave your two cents in the comments section of any post. If you're too shy for that, however, or want to speak to me personally, you may feel free to email me at KGoldfie@gmail.com.
Asperger's Book for Sale
Common Scents: Adventures with Autism and Chemical Sensitivity" is the story of a young woman's search for physical and emotional safety as she journeys through the mountains of the Cascades, small coastal towns on the Oregon coast, and out-of the-way towns in upstate New York. Along the way, she experiences things she would never have dreamed possible had she stayed in her Maine hometown, and begins to learn the power of human connection.
Common Scents is the story of the last three years of my life. It gives a gripping view of what it is like to experience the world as someone on the autistic spectrum, and some would say, is an entertaining travel story as well. Because of chemical sensitivities, I engaged on a three year journey for a place I could call home.
Comments from readers:
"The Asperger's element is remarkable. I feel that I understand my son better, so much better. I laughed at this part.... because I've stared at my son in the same way for the same thing." - mother of an Asperger's kid
"Your writing style is SO engaging and interesting. It brings me right into the subject and I always experience a little emotional punch towards the end. In other words, this is the third time I've teared-up reading your work. Kate, you've highlighted ALL the problems with how social skills are usually taught." - mother of ASD kid
"I stayed up entirely too late reading the first 14 pages. I can relate to so much of what you write. I really think you are expressing the true experience with MCS and autism in words that convey the experience." person with chemical sensitivity (MCS)
"Absolutely interesting, insightful and witty. You've blended together your three themes beautifully (Asperger's, MCS and travelling). It seems seamless."